In 2018–2019, the St.Petersburg State Academic Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre, headed by Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation Andrian Fadeev, is now celebrating its 50th anniversary season.
This season coincides with an important milestone: 115 years since the birth of the ballet company's founder, Leonid Yacobson, which the theatrical community celebrated in January.
To ring in this momentous date, the Leonid Yacobson company designed a special premiere: a collection of one-act ballets, which included the restored and updated versions of Leonid Yacobson's choreographic miniatures, along with The Firebird, a ballet by British choreographer Douglas Lee set to music by Igor Stravinsky.
St. Petersburg Playbill
In the first half of the 50th season, the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre gave a series of performances at the historical venue of the Mariinsky Theatre.
On October 22 and December 3, we showcased last season's premiere, Don Quixote by choreographer and world ballet star Johan Kobborg, former principal of the Royal Ballet in London. Don Quixote at the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre was Kobborg's first large-scale project in St. Petersburg. The scenery for the premiere was provided by Jérôme Kaplan, a renowned French set designer with Russian roots, already familiar to the Russian public thanks to his artistic contributions to the Illusions Perdues ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre (music by Leonid Desyatnikov), which he had worked on in tandem with the choreographer Aleksey Ratmansky. The lighting was designed by Vincent Millet, who had previously collaborated with Kaplan at the Bolshoi Theatre. Russian and international press was very complimentary of the performance, calling Kobborg's version of Don Quixote both refreshing and inventive, as well as noting the creative mastery of the young dancers. The expert judging panel of the Golden Mask National Theatre Award recognised the ballet's outstanding achievements in seven nominations. On November 19 and December 10, the Leonid Yacobson Theatre made an appearance at the Mariinsky venue with The Sleeping Beauty, staged by Jean-Guillaume Bart, a renowned French choreographer, danseur, and teacher, with set and costumes by the famous designer Olga Shaishmelashvili. The press unanimously lauded the Frenchman Jean-Guillaume Bart for walking in the footsteps of his predecessor and fellow Frenchman (albeit a 'Russian' one), Marius Petipa, and for 'restoring and renewing the great choreographer's masterpiece on the St. Petersburg stage'.
On November 30, while performing at the Alexandrinsky Theatre, we introduced a premiere programme, aimed at celebrating the 115th birth anniversary of our company's founder, the talented experimental choreographer Leonid Yacobson. The first and second segments of the programme included restored and revived choreographic masterpieces by Leonid Yacobson. Preparations for the show had featured contributions from our company's tutors, who had once personally collaborated with Yacobson, as well as by a number of notable set designers, such as Alyona Pikalova and Tatiana Vyushinskaya (scenery), Tatiana Noginova (costumes), and Kamil Kutyev (lighting). The third segment was be dedicated to the premiere performance of The Firebird ballet, set to music by Igor Stravinsky and restored in its original rendition, not quite like the well-known work of Michel Fokine, which had once been commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev for his Russian Seasons. Douglas Lee, adept of neoclassical creative principles, had overseen the production. Having tied his danseur's career to Stuttgart Ballet, Lee made successful contributions to that company as a choreographer, earning a name for himself in the world of ballet. In Russia, Douglas Lee is known for his work at the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre, which got special mentions in several nominations of the Golden Mask National Theatre Award. In 2016, Lee won the same award in the Modern Dance Ballet/Ballet Master's Work nomination for his ballet When the Snow Was Falling. The scenery and costumes for the show were created by the famous set designer Eva Adler, while Sakis Birbilis was responsible for the lighting. The premiere performance was accompanied by the St. Petersburg State Academic Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Titov, Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation.
The show was part of the 8th St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum's Events Under Auspices cultural programme. It received an ardently positive response from the public, along with favourable press reviews.
As per tradition, the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre toured actively during the 2018–2019 season. We travelled to Georgia, Japan, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Belgium.
But the troupe opened its tour series by performing in another Russian city: our milestone concerts took place in Vladikavkaz and were part of the 2nd International Caucasus Festival The Mariinsky – Vladikavkaz. On October 5 and 6, our dancers appeared at the National State Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, under the auspices of Mariinsky's branch in Vladikavkaz, and showcased choreographic miniatures by Leonid Yacobson. The shows were preceded by a brief overview of the great ballet master's achievements and of his theatre's history. One of these shows was openly accessible to all of the city's school and college students.
On November 10, the Yacobson Theatre contributed to the Days of St. Petersburg in Tbilisi cultural event by playing Johan Kobborg's Don Quixote at the Tbilisi Griboedov Theatre.
From December 14 to December 30, we visited Japan: audiences from Tokyo, Kyoto, Kanagawa, Osaka, Chiba, Aichi, Nagano, and Mie saw our Nutcracker and Swan Lake ballets, along with a Gala Programme.
From January 4 through February 19, 2019, we embarked on a grand tour across several French cities. Our itinerary included: Aix-en-Provence, Saint Etienne, Massy, Blagnac, Arcachon, Créteil, Neuilly, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Noisy le Grand, Hyères, Garges-lès-Gonesse, and Reims, with a brief visit to the small Swiss town of Winterthur. We performed Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Chopiniana. From late February to March 18, we toured across Italy with Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake.
From May 9 to May 12, 2019, the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre will represent the world of Russian art in the largest Flemish city. Performances by our creative team will be part of the Days of St. Petersburg in Antwerp, a cultural event celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between St. Petersburg and Belgium's second most prominent city. We will play Sleeping Beauty at the Stadsschouwburg Antwerp (the Antwerp City Theatre). And on May 14 and 15, this famous ballet will be showcased to the public of Lessien, France.
From June 27 to June 30, we will also be taking Sleeping Beauty to the Grand Théâtre de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland.
Spring and Summer Season
Upon returning to St. Petersburg from one of its tours, the Leonid Yacobson troupe rang in a new series of shows at the Mariinsky Theatre's historical venue by performing the legendary Swan Lake on April 1. On April 8, those coming to this prestigious theatre saw Don Quixote, a production that received several Golden Mask awards; while on May 6 and 20, the public witnessed the return of Tchaikovsky and Petipa's beloved characters one more time.
In early April, we held our first rehearsals of The Queen of Spades ballet at the Rotunda. We have scheduled a premiere of this ballet for December 2019. The dancers had their first meeting with Iñaki Urlezaga, who will be choreographing the new production. Iñaki Urlezaga, former principal of the Royal Ballet in London and the Teatro Colón in Argentina, has enjoyed a highly successful creative career, performing at the world's topmost ballet venues and combining his pursuits as a dancer with those of a choreographer since 2003.
On April 29, the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Company contributed to a large-scale Gala at the Alexandrinsky Theatre, which was part of the Dance Open International Ballet Festival. The public saw the dancers perform the renowned pas de deux from Ludwig Minkus' Don Quixote.
Late this May, we will hold our first rehearsals with the principals of the future Onegin production, planned to premiere in December 2020. This show — with original choreography by John Cranko, except for some minor cuts — is being staged for the same team that put it on at the Bolshoi Theatre. The creative crew will be joined by a new member, the renowned set designer Jérôme Kaplan, who already has some history of successful collaboration with the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre (the costumes and scenery for Don Quixote).
From July 22 to August 3, we will open a series of summer shows at St. Petersburg's most high-status venues with Swan Lake, one of our playbill's most popular items, at the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre. From August 5 to August 18, this theatre will be succeeded by Mariinsky, where the public will be able to see not only Swan Lake, but also Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Don Quixote. And from August 20 till the very end of summer, Swan Lake fans will get to enjoy their beloved ballet every day back at the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre.
The management of the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre has continued paying special attention to our dancers' personal growth throughout this season. And this approach is bearing fruit. Evandro Augusto Bossle Junior, one of our youngest dancers, got honorary third place at the 4th International Baltic Ballet Competition, which took place in Riga, the capital of Latvia, from June 18 to June 22. Whereas Andrey Gudyma received the prestigious Golden Soffit Saint-Petersburg Theatre Award 2018 in the Best Male Role in a Ballet Performance nomination for his Espada from Don Quixote. In 2018, the expert judging committee of the Golden Mask National Theatre Award 2017/2018 ruled that the Leonid Yacobson Ballet's production of Don Quixote, staged by Johan Kobborg, receive awards in seven nominations. Our Don Quixote participated in the prestigious Golden Mask festival in late March, and was received quite warmly by the capital's public and theatre experts. For her outstanding contribution to the development of ballet art and the preservation of Russia's cultural heritage, our Theatre's soloist Alla Bocharova received the Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation title. And her long-standing stage partner, young master danseur Andrey Sorokin received a well-deserved St. Petersburg City Council Youth Award for Artistic Work 2018 in the Achievements in Theatre nomination.